June 26, 2020

The why and how of skip level meetings

[This content is from the SaaSy VP Sales program]

Directors and VPs – Are you capturing the potential of insight and creativity that exists in your front line people? If you are not conducting ‘skip level’ meetings, then I can assure you that there is opportunity. In this post I will share how to run them and importantly, how not to scare the heck out of everyone when you announce your intention to conduct them.

Why do them?

  1. You need to get unfiltered feedback on what is working, what is not and this may not happen via your intermediaries.
  2. Some of the greatest insights for strategy and tactical improvements come from those who do the work – Whether it be back-office, support, marketing, product or sales, ideas abound.
  3. Everyone wants to be heard – Skip level meetings allow everyone to feel more connected to the evolution of their professional experience.

The framework for the meeting should be (in an order you prefer):

  • What changes, or improvements they believe might help them in their everyday work environment
  • Ideas for possible new products / initiatives / processes
  • General sentiment in the company, goals for themselves and their team
  • Your company vision and priorities (which lower level employees sometimes miss out on due to poor communication)

Example questions may be:

  • How do you feel about work lately?
  • What have you accomplished lately that you’re most proud of?
  • How do you measure success in your role?
  • What’s blocking you from being more successful than you already are?
  • What tool would be most helpful for you in your current role?
  • What would you do differently if you were in the role of your team lead? Why?
  • What are your professional goals during the next year here? The next 3 years?
  • What do you think the current goals of the company are?
  • How do you feel your role contributes to those goals?
  • What ideas do you have for innovation in your team? In the company?
  • I would love to understand how you manage your day to day – Can you tell me what tools you use to prioritize your time and know what needs doing next?

+ Any other process specific items you like….

How to stop your direct reports feeling threatened

If this is a new process in your organization, then it is only natural that your direct reports (managers who are being ‘skipped’) may feel threatened. Also, the individual contributors should must understand your motivations such that they feel safe. Here are some suggestions

To the manager directly in a meeting or in an email:

Once a quarter, with your permission, I’d like to set aside 45 min – 1 hour to chat with each of your direct reports. The agenda would include questions like, “Could I be doing a better job outlining the vision and direction for where we’re headed?” and “When have you felt most proud about being a part of the company this past year?” And they’ll have a chance to ask me other questions, too.

Hopefully, it’ll be an opportunity to create greater alignment about our vision and provide a chance for them to weigh in on higher level leadership topics that affect the organization.

Curious what you think? I was thinking of kicking them off on [DATE]- Open to any input you might have on the idea, timing etc.

For the front line individual (Via email usually):

I have been speaking with [their manager’s name] about ways that I can better support the team and something that we agreed on is that it would be great if I could have ‘skip level’ meetings with everyone in the team.  I am hoping that we could find an hour once a quarter to get together one on one so that I could:

  • learn more about your experience at the company.
  • understand what I can be doing to better to support your journey.
  • get your ideas on things that we should be considering across the company to achieve our goals.

Could we have a meeting like this on [date/time]?

Matt Cameron
Sales Leadership @ SaaSy
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